Jan. 12, 2018 - The Assembly Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety held a public hearing Thursday on Assembly Bill 660, which is also commonly referred to as the Second Chance bill. The legislation would return nonviolent, first–time 17–year–old offenders to the juvenile court’s jurisdiction.
The bill, authored by State Representative Mark Born (R–Beaver Dam), State Representative John Nygren (R–Marinette), and State Senator Jerry Petrowski (R–Marathon), would revise portions of current law – enacted in 1996 – which required that any 17–year–old who is alleged to have committed a crime be treated as an adult.
“Returning this group of individuals to juvenile court is important to me and many of our members because we see firsthand, in our courtrooms and practices, the negative effects of a teenager with an adult record,” said State Bar President-elect Christopher Rogers.
Wisconsin is one of only five remaining states that sets the age of criminal responsibility at 17 years old. Studies have shown that youth placed in an adult prison re-offend after release at higher rates than young people placed in a juvenile institution. Moving these offenders back to juvenile court allows them to access important treatment programs and other services catered to their needs. The stigma of having an adult record also could stay with an offender for years and hurt their chances of finding employment, furthering their education, or finding housing.
The bill has been considered many times and has gone through various iterations in previous sessions, but AB 660 has one important change––a funding appropriation. The bill calls for $5 million in funding to the Department of Children and Families, which would create a reimbursement system for counties assisting them with the age policy change. It also allocates an additional $5 million to be placed in the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee supplemental appropriation account that would be available if the funding reimbursement runs out. The Wisconsin Counties Association is now supportive of the legislation with the new fiscal appropriation.
The State Bar of Wisconsin has long supported the change and is part of a coalition of both youth and judicial advocates supporting the legislation.